On the 1st of October, protesters from the DC Abolition Coalition (prison abolition) locked themselves to ladders blocking all the vehicle driveways into or out of the Dept of Justice. Police used power tools recklessly and shook ladders while cutting them out of the 9th st side of the lockdown. They also threatened to knock out an African-American woman on top of one of the ladders.
When police first taped off the area and announced anyone inside the tape was subject to arrest, the placement of the tape singled out the ladder with an African-American woman sitting in the top blockade position. The other ladder, closer to the street with white blockaders was left outside the tape. More tape was strung around that ladder after a Black Lives Matter actvist called the cops out for this racist layout and the blockaders on the priviliged ladder joined in, calling out their own priviliged position as an example of police racism.
As police pushed and pulled, ladders shook dangerously. When the bolt cutters could not cut a bike lock and a lockbox, police used an angle grinder, in once case dangerously close to a human neck. One slip could have cut an artery, and the heat of the grinder on half-inch thick hardened steel could easily have inflicted serious burns. In normal metalwork this heat (as well as the dust and shower of high velocity sparks) is one of the hazards of the job but metalworkers get proper protective gear the locked down protesters were denied.
The blockade remained in place for hours, with the effect that those DOJ staffers that drove to work and parked in the building's lot could not leave for lunch. Their lunch would have been better spent ensuring that existing DOJ reports on unconstitutional violations of human rights in Alabama's prison system were followed up on, and ton removing and replacing the US Attorney for Alabama.
The locked-down protesters and their supporters were demanding DOJ end their current inaction on the already 5 months old report on abuses in the Alabama Dept of Corrections. One of the worst of these is "bucket detail" where prisoners accusing of posessing "contraband" are chained to buckets in cells with no water or toilets for up to 5 days at a time. DC organizers added demands that DC build no new jail or prison, that DC stop letting ICE into the DC Jail, and that DC pass of the Second Look amemdment.